“Google to buy Syria in $3.2 Billion Deal”
“Selena Gomez: There’s a Big Difference Between Yasser Arafat and Me”
Those are just a few of the headlines generated by Darius Kazemi’s “Two Headlines” twitter bot, which pulls real headlines from the news and splices them together to get rarely accurate and often funny “headlines,” which it then tweets. Kazemi makes what he calls “Weird Internet Stuff,” small coding projects that usually take less than 5 hours to complete, and often generate fairly useless images, phrases, and information.
In his 2014 Eyeo talk, Kazemi discussed making art with code, and what it takes to be successful in this. He displayed a mathematical formula and called it elegant, but then warned that the things that make equations elegant–compactness, infinite expressiveness–are a red flag for procedurally generated art, and “the computer art equivalent of a Thomas Kinkade.” He showed a few fractal landscapes generated by a computer, and declared that while they were impressive, they were boring: very little was different between the landscapes, and a viewer could quickly spot the patterns going on. According to Kazemi, making good computer generated art takes more than just spitting out some image or phrase based on a randomly generated number; it takes Templated Authorship, Random Input, and Context.
Templated Authorship means not just displaying random information, but rather interpreting it in some way, like letting a random number be the x coordinate of a shape, or having a random word be searched in Google. This is simple enough, and something most creators of digital art already make use of. Filtering or finding the Random Input in a unique way is a great way to make one’s art more relevant. Like the “Two Headlines” bot, which takes its input from real news headlines, you should get your “randomness” from the world itself if you want your artwork to be a reflection of something meaningful rather than a series of random numbers. Finally, Context is what makes art mean something to viewers. Sure, you can make a bot that can randomly generate a word and then display its definition. But who would want to look at that? But if you put that information in the context of a Ryan Reynolds saying “Hey girl, you must be a
As a speaker, Kazemi made excellent use of examples, both by showing the audience pictures of what he was talking about and by actually running some of the random-generator programs he spoke of right in front of them. He spoke about video games and tweets, things many young people today can relate to, but what really stuck out to me was the way he talked about elegance, coherence, and even general quality: these things must be considered undesirable when trying to make procedural art. Despite the fact that these are often considered positive traits of an individual work, striving for them when writing your code will yield results that are constrained, unoriginal, and boring–everything art shouldn’t be. I know I’ll have to fight my basic instinct as an artist in order to follow Kazemi’s advice, but hopefully my work is all the better for it.
Here is a link to Kazemi’s website, which contains many examples of his “Weird Internet Stuff”.
And here is the video I watched of his presentation: